Haley Wood and Jessie Watnes, among the pioneers in the mobile culinary scene in the Truckee Meadows, have traded their wheels for a more traditional bricks-and-mortar concept.
The pair used to travel throughout the area promoting their GourMelt mobile food truck, but have since sold their mobile business for a new venture, Two Chicks Restaurant located at 752 S. Virginia Street in Reno’s Midtown district.
It was always their goal to open a stationary eatery, with the possibility of using the mobile food truck to augment the business plan. However, when they started out, it was in the midst of the recession, making a storefront property unrealistic at the time.
“It was really hard to get anybody to fund us at the time,” Wood said. “So we saved our money, and borrowed from our friends and family to be able to rent the truck. We saved enough money to rent a space.”
Wood and Watnes brainstormed different restaurant concepts before deciding to go with the “Two Chicks” formula. They set plans to sell the mobile truck and hunt for the right location for their new enterprise.
“Midtown felt very right to us,” Wood recalled. One day, they drove down to eat at Chuy’s (Mexican Kitchen) and, as luck would have it, saw the property manager named Bernie Carter. Within two days, they arranged a lease.
Much like its mobile venture, Wood and Watnes used revenue from GourMelt, the truck sale and help from friends and family to fund the restaurant. The business, which opened in August 2014, serves breakfast and lunch daily from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. The grilled cheese sandwich, the staple of the former GourMelt, is also on the menu.
“Everything is fresh and made from scratch — no processed foods,” said Wood. “We don’t cut corners with food.”
Wood said Two Chicks tries to buy all its ingredients locally, from its breads, eggs and dairy products, as well as coffee. It also offers a full bar on tap, rotating a selection of local beers and liquor daily. “That’s another concept that we have —a full bar, which not a lot of other places like ours have,” Wood said.
As for its décor, the restaurant stays with its poultry namesake, presenting a setting of a chicken coop. There’s a spraying of chicken wire and corrugated metal to emphasize an industrial/barnyard feel. (Initially) “We were calling this Chicken Coop Chic, so it has an industrial feel with a retro diner style,” Wood said. Theusually business employs about 15 people.
Wood, who studied graphic arts at Truckee Meadows Community College, handles all of Two Chicks’ marketing while Watnes handles the bookkeeping. Wood designed and sells T-shirts that adorn the restaurant’s walls. Two Chicks, like its predecessor, GourMelt, also takes advantage of social media, avenues, including Facebook and Twitter.
In the year since Two Chicks’ opening, Wood said the restaurant has exceeded its original projections for the year, averaging about 200 customers a day on weekdays while averaging 380 on weekends. It also has received several positive reviews from customers and earned honors from local publications.
Craig Macy, CEO of OnStream, said the establishment provides a quality hangout for business meetings and networking opportunities. Macy, who came from Silicon Valley, said good business hangouts are the norm there.
When he first came to Reno, with his venture situated at C4CUBE, five blocks away from the eatery, he felt there were few good options for meeting clients. He thinks Two Chicks helps fill that void. “I go there about three times a week, and there’s not one time when there’s not someone I can network with,” Macy said. “It has all the necessary elements. The food is consistent. It has enough seating and you’re not crammed together. It’s an environment that’s appropriate for both the funky little startups or even the experienced venture capitalists.”
While Wood and Watnes have ditched the GourMelt food truck concept for now, they may revisit the idea at some point. Also, since the restaurant is prospering, the team may consider spreading their wings to a second location at a future date.